Film Review – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Josh Brolin as Dwight in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Josh Brolin as Dwight in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller

Starring Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Powers Boothe, Eva Green, Bruce Willis, Rosario Dawson

Review by Jordan

As peers and sometimes collaborators, the careers of energetic Texan Robert Rodriguez and pop-culture icon Quentin Tarantino have long been compared, with most critics perhaps soundly siding with the latter.

True, Tarantino’s recent output from a film perspective is finer (Inglourious Basterds more so than the slightly misguided Django Unchained), and he has painted a number of genres with his pulpy, instantly recognizable style, but its the child-like exuberance and thrill that Rodriguez injects into each of his projects that still, and always has rendered him the victor in my eyes.

The action trilogy of El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico stands tall as his calling-card (the guns-in-guitar-case gimmick being especially cool to a teenage movie nut), From Dusk ’till Dawn is a cult classic par excellence, Machete a love-letter to his devoted fans and Sin City his masterpiece of maturity; a superbly crafted adult thriller that revolutionized green screen technology…  so, where does that leave its belated sequel? and how does it’s quality reflect on the legacy of the now-prolific writer, director, editor and scorer?

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is, to put it in a rather disappointing fashion, neither a hindrance to, nor a improvement over it’s predecessor. Co-directed by graphic novelist Frank Miller (who tellingly proved he wasn’t suited to solo work with The Spirit), there are moments of cool mastery, lead by the awesomely intimidating Marv (an almost unrecognizable Mickey Rourke) and pure incarnation of evil in the shape of the cliched corrupt politician Senator Roark (the under-appreciated Powers Boothe, who gets to say “power” a heck of a lot), but arriving 9 years after the original and not offering anything new in terms of narrative ambition means that despite the technical prowess still being undeniably present, this is a trip to Basin City that doesn’t necessarily need be taken.

Then there’s Eva Green, who despite what the advertisers push certainly steals more screen time than the likes of the earnest Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jessica Alba or, by a long margin, Rosario Dawson. Sure, she is the titular “Dame to Kill For,” but the once-alternative screen siren made famous by the great Casino Royal has since forged a truly trashy filmography and extends that firmly B-grade design to her performance here, providing a shocking performance amongst notable actors.

Some will say the Sin City brand is trash anyway. It’s not. It’s a Robert Rodriguez brand, and if you think anything associated with the vibrant film-maker who had the guts to make Grindhouse, Shorts and Machete in succession, and who has managed to direct, so far, 3 successful series (including the hugely popular Spy Kids movies) is trash, then you’re clearly on Tarantino’s side…

Dazzlingly violent, hard-boiled and blackly funny, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For does a lot right, but ultimately it had big, Marv sized shoes to fill, and there is enough wrong to ensure its not essential viewing. Sin City (2005) is a neo-noir that took the industry by surprise and perfectly translated its source material to the screen, and even if its not entirely worthy, at least it’s sequel reminded us of that fact, and if it encourages those who failed to enter this black, white and red world almost a decade ago to now venture in, then in my opinion that’s still a job well done.

3 regrettable Ray Liotta cameos out of 5

22 responses to “Film Review – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

  1. The more reviews I read about A Dame to Kill For, the more discouraged I’m getting. Though I find it weird that you start off the review by highlighting a “Rodriguez vs. Tarantino” situation. Do people actually do this, by pitting the unique styles of the two directors against each other?

    • Well, I just always assumed people did, since I always have myself! Who’s style do you think you prefer? I’d still recommend seeing this if you’re even half interested.

      • I’ll definitely check out Sin City 2, but its not high up on my must see list due to censorship nonsense in my country. I love both. The way I see it and if I had to compare, Rodriguez is the better all-around filmmaker, and Tarantino is the better writer.

        The original Sin City and Grindhouse will always be higher than anything Tarantino has done if I had to put my favourite movies from both side-to-side.

  2. I’m still looking forward to watching this movie someday on DVD/Blu-Ray. Right now, I’m watching DVDs borrowed from the library, most recently, “One Night at McCool’s” (I don’t care about its 33% rating at Rotten Tomatoes; I enjoyed it) and “The Maltese Falcon” (deserving of its 100% rating; and, yes, I enjoyed it, too).

    • Ha that is one strange double bill there. The library is not a bad way to go at all; a great way to discover older films in particular that for whatever reason you’ve missed.
      Regards, Jordan

  3. I was able to attend the premiere of this movie and when I asked a good friend to go with me..he said..”nah..the party will be great but the movie will not be.” I noted this in my review as he was right.. but hey I got to meet Demian Bichir.. 🙂

      • It was a surprise the first Machete got made considering it was adapted from one of the fake trailers on Grindhouse. Even crazier is that he originated as a supporting character on Spy Kids and Rodriguez has said its the same Mache. I’d love to see him whoop some Thumb-Thumb ass!

  4. Good review Jordan. It’s a shame that this movie is sort of forgettable, because the cast is well-stacked and pretty good. It’s just that none of them have much to do here that’s all that interesting.

  5. I’m gonna watch this this weekend. I watched Desparado the other day and was reminded how good Rodriguez CAN be. I think he needs to refocus though because he hasn’t done anything of true worth since the first Sin City. And he’s arguably a more talented film maker than Tarantino as well.

    • Oh you and I see eye to eye here mate! Although I did think that Machete was a cool flick. Desperado is almost cooler than Tarantino’s entire catalog combined in my opinion; Banderas, Hayek, Trejo, Tito & Tarantula, Steve Buscemi and Tarantino’s cameo are all just so good.

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